Intellectually, I am most passionate about how non-state actors challenge our understanding of security and governance: how do they emerge, grow, thrive, and engage with communities around them? These are incredibly innovative actors who consistently defy the ‘rules’ of the international system and expose weaknesses within states. Their activities often come at a high human cost in the form of violent death, forced displacement, and corruption, making the problem feel deeply urgent.

In my personal life, I enjoy reading fiction, traveling, and hiking with my dog.

MIIS is an incredible environment to teach in because the students are smart, engaged, and bring a range of relevant experience from their professional lives to the classroom. At its best, teaching is a loud, fast paced classroom where students are collaborating and building off each other to develop the tools and insights that will help them throughout their lives. More often than not, that dynamic is exactly what my classroom at MIIS feels like and I love getting to work with students who are so dedicated to improving the world and their communities.

Areas of Interest


Dr. Katharine Petrich has been teaching courses in international relations and comparative politics since 2014. Petrich’s academic research is primarily concerned with international security issues, particularly those posed by violent non-state actors. Topically, her research focuses on insurgency, terrorism, and transnational crime in Latin America and the Horn of Africa. Petrich is dedicated to an ethnographic qualitative research approach and spends a significant amount of time in the field interviewing violent actors and their law enforcement counterparts. She is currently working on a project which examines the intersection of criminality and political extremism in the remote rural regions of Canada

Previous Work

In addition to academic research, Petrich previously worked for the US Department of Justice, the US State Department, USMA Modern War Institute, and the Hudson Institute. In her pre-PhD life, she worked with the Trans-Border Institute as a researcher, documenting, recording, and coding homicide victims of cartel related violence. She contributed extensively to the Justice in Mexico News Monitor project, writing articles about narco-violence based on Spanish-language Mexican news. She is a Truman National Security Fellow and consults for both government agencies and policy think tanks.

Languages: English, Spanish


Research Centers

Academic Degrees

PhD, Political Science, Northeastern University (2019)

MA, International Relations, University of San Diego (2013)

BA, History and Political Science, University of San Diego (2010)


Petrich, Katharine. (2020). “Crime-Terror Nexus.” In the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies. Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190846626.013.608

Petrich, Katharine. “How crime is linked to al-Shabaab’s Survival Strategy.” The Conversation. 8 April 2020.

Petrich, Katharine. (2019) “Cows, Charcoal, and Cocaine: al-Shabaab’s Criminal Activities in the Horn of Africa.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. DOI: 10.1080/1057610X.2019.1678873

Petrich, Katharine and Phoebe Donnelly. (2019) “Worth Many Sins: al-Shabaab’s Shifting Relationship with Kenyan Women.” Small Wars and Insurgencies 30:6-7, 1169-1192. DOI: 10.1080/09592318.2019.1649814

Petrich, Katharine. “Al-Shabaab’s Mata Hari Network.” War on the Rocks. 14 August 2018.

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